4 in custody after night of shootings, police chase in Springfield

Springfield police had four people in custody Wednesday for questioning about their involvement with a string of drive-by shootings that left several homes and cars on Springfield’s south side struck with bullets and led to one school cancelling classes.

It appears at least two vehicles tore through neighborhood streets Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, with people inside the cars shooting at homes and possibly at each other with high-powered weapons.

A 10-year-old boy was treated by medics for an abrasion, possibly caused by a bullet grazing, but no other injuries were reported.

More than 20 callers flooded Springfield’s 9-1-1 dispatch with reports of shots being fired starting about 11:30 p.m.

“Somebody’s just shot through my father and my mother’s window,” a woman on South Center Boulevard told dispatchers.

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A man visiting his tenant in the same block initially thought a bullet had whizzed past his head.

“There was like about eight or nine (shots),” Stephen Gnandt said. The house he was in wasn’t hit, but one on the corner was. “They shot up his car, shot out his windows … he has a bunch of little kids in that house, too.”

The majority of the calls were from residents on Woodward Avenue and South Center Boulevard, but the shooting likely started on Kenton Street, about two miles away.

Springfield Police Division Chief Stephen Moody said the shootings appear to be the work of two feuding groups of individuals that his officers have been dealing with off and on for two years.

“These were not random acts of violence,” he said. “These individuals were targeting each other.”

The shootings spawned a police pursuit after an officer spotted a red SUV that had been described by several 9-1-1 callers on Woodward Avenue and followed it.

That vehicle made it to South Charleston where it ran over spike strips deployed by police and came to a stop near the intersection of West Jamestown and South Chillicothe streets.

The driver, 28-year-old Krista Jones, was arrested at the scene and charged with felony failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer and fleeing or eluding a police officer, according to court records. She appeared in Clark County Municipal Court on Wednesday morning.

Two assault rifles were recovered, which police believe were thrown from that vehicle.

Jones told police she was abducted and forced to drive by two men in the SUV.

One man with her was initially taken into custody, but not charged, Moody said. A second fled the scene and hadn’t been caught as of Wednesday evening.

The search for that missing suspect prompted Southeastern Local Schools to cancel classes for the day.

South Charleston resident Beth Osweiler watched police search the village.

“It’s unusual for here,” she said.

Several hours later, more gunfire was reported in Springfield.

Two neighboring houses on Lincoln Park Circle were shot at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

At least three or four shots hit homes and more than a dozen shell casings littered streets.

No injuries were reported during that incident, which occurred just blocks from both Hayward Middle and Lincoln Elementary schools.

A short time later, a vehicle believed to be fleeing that scene crashed in an alley between Clifton Avenue and South Limestone Street. That car was reported stolen. Another rifle was found thrown on the ground nearby and three men fled on foot, with police in pursuit.

One was arrested just a few blocks north on Southern Avenue and the other two a short time later.

Police declined to release the names of those individuals Wednesday afternoon because they hadn’t been formally charged.

All Springfield City School District buildings operated under a “secured facility” status on Wednesday because of the shootings. Instruction and activities were conducted as normal, with the exception of outdoor recess.

By midday, Springfield Police had assured the district that the area around Hayward and Lincoln had been cleared, school spokesman Scott Marshall said, but out of an abundance of caution the district remained in its heightened security state for the rest of the school day.

Although no one was hurt during these incidents, police are concerned about the ongoing violence between these groups, the heavy firepower they are using and their apparent disregard for human life, Moody said.

“These people are cowards,” he said.

Marcus Harbut is one of the neighbors who witnessed the crash off of Clifton Avenue on Wednesday and alerted police to the discarded rifle.

“I just hope everybody’s OK that was in the situation and I hope that people are charged equally and things are taken care of because it’s pretty bad around here, things need to change,” he said.

The weapons recovered are capable of firing high-powered ammunition intended to kill people, Moody said.

“That is tremendously serious,” he said.

The collateral damage included houses being struck that weren’t the targets of these individuals and some that may have been targeted, but without regard to who was inside, police said.

“There may be children in that house,” Moody said.

Police are working with prosecutors to piece together the events and determine charges for those involved.

Investigators collected a large volume of forensic evidence that may take some time to sift through, Moody said.

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